Each month, we invite Community Culture writers to respond to a themed prompt in a creative writing notebook. This month, February, is the month of love! But searching for valentines is SO last year… this month’s theme is breakups, bad dates and broken hearts. — Zoe Phillips, Senior Arts Editor

My worst first date ever began at Steps on Broadway, an old dance studio on New York City’s Upper West Side.

I wore a purple leotard and grey biker shorts with my hair in braids to a full afternoon class. I remember the gorgeous Spanish teacher coming up to me at one point during barre and instructing me to drop my tailbone so my butt didn’t protrude in a grand plié and thinking how out of shape I was.

I made eye contact with a younger man who had shaggy brown hair and an air of confidence about him that the professional dancers who take classes at Steps can never seem to leave at the door. 

Still recovering from breakup depression, I just focused on completing the hour and a half. By the time the last combination of jumps came around, I noticed this young man was allowing me to go in front of him. I was so zoned out that he gave me a short laugh and motioned me in front of him. 

I jumped and twisted in the air, thanked the teacher and finished class. Safely in the hallway and feeling very good that I made my way here, the boy from before appeared in front of me as I was changing into street shoes. 

“Hi. I’d like to take you to the Met,” he said. 

“What?”

“I dance for New York City Ballet, so I get free tickets. I would like to take you to the American Ballet Theater’s end-of-season performance.” He ran his hand through his shaggy hair.

“Um … okay. That sounds awesome.”

“Okay. So meet me at the Met at 8 on Saturday.”

“Like the Metropolitan Opera? At Lincoln Center? With the fountain and everything?”

“Yeah. Can I have your number?”

With my new Saturday night plans, I floated back to the couch I was crashing on at 191st Street. 

Three days later, I wore a pair of Converse and a Scotch & Soda dress in front of the Met with a dead phone and only a vague memory of what this boy looked like. I eventually found him next to the fountain, and we walked in together. 

“So there’s this guy called Balanchine, and he choreographed a couple of the pieces tonight,” he said.

“I know who Balanchine is.”

“Oh. Well, this company shouldn’t really be doing these pieces because City Ballet is trained specifically-”

“I know. I actually know some people in City Ballet. I used to train with them.”

When he found out who I knew, he evaluated each of my contacts.

“Oh. Yeah. She’s really hot. She’s kind of a bitch now, though. That’s what City Ballet does to you,” he said.

“So you’re in the company too?”

“Um … no. I almost was. Now I dance for Washington Ballet. It’s really great. I’m already getting principal roles, so…”

The lights dimmed, and I remember thinking oh God, no. He’s one of those. Super insecure and never been told no.

The ballet began and I remember being disappointed because the male dancers weren’t very good, and the music wasn’t loud enough to cover their labored breathing during the performance. The whole illusion of the ease of ballet was broken. Kind of like my date.

After their final bows, we wandered into the lobby. He began asking me about myself; I told him I’m a student at the University of Michigan.

“Oh. College was never in my plan.”

“I’m sure it would be too hard with rehearsals,” I agreed.

“No. I just didn’t like the idea of giving money to an institution that just lets people in even if they weren’t qualified. Like, it’s way easier for Black people to get in than white people and that’s stupid.”

“That’s oddly specific. Also, I don’t think that’s true.”

“It is.”

“Okay. I think I’m going to go now.”

With that, I left. I never talked to the guy again. I don’t even remember his name. I do remember going immediately to my friends apartment on the Upper West Side, and telling them exactly what happened. They all gawked and gasped at his sad insecurity and ignorance. After I sufficiently purged myself of all the bad vibes associated with the guy, we ordered Insomnia Cookies and watched “Grace and Frankie.” 

I was grateful to once again be surrounded by my community of people that had some perspective on the world. So there you go: my worst first date ever. At least I got to go to the Met.

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